Beijing+30 Youth Blog: Let's support migrant domestic workers and efforts to build care economy across the region


Author: Lau Yuen Tung Chloe 

Lau Yuen Tung Chloe, 23, Hong Kong.
Lau Yuen Tung Chloe, 23, Hong Kong SAR. Photo courtesy of Lau Yuen Tung Chloe.

In recent decades, Asia has been under the global gaze because of its industrialization and rapid economic growth; yet little attention has been given to those behind the scenes, such as those working in the caring economy. Both paid and unpaid care work remain largely invisible, unrecognized and undervalued, despite their vital value.  

Because of the social construction of gender roles and stereotypical beliefs, women are expected to be the primary caregivers and home caretakers, while men act as the breadwinners. According to this infographic by Kailin Huang for FES Asia, 75 per cent of paid and 80 per cent of unpaid care work is performed by women in Asia. Even in comparatively developed countries, women still perform more household chores than men. This disproportionate responsibility reflects gender inequality, limiting women’s rights, ability to engage in other economic activities and workforce opportunities, widening the wage gap, and making them more vulnerable than we know.  

Besides this, the demand for care work is expected to increase due to the different demographic structure of countries in the region, such as the growing population in India and the aging society in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (SAR). This change is linked to another issue: migrant domestic workers. They are the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the world, as they are low-skilled, low-paid and are largely excluded from labour market and social protection legislation.  

According to government statistics, there were over 338,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong SAR as of 2022. As a Hong Kong SAR native, it is normal to see thousands of foreign domestic workers getting together, socializing, singing and dancing, cooking and eating at Central, Tsim Sha Tsui or Mong Kok on Sundays. It is interesting to see that there are even more foreign workers than Iocals hanging around and to observe how they spend their day off.  

Back in June 2023, I was grateful to join the MFMW Annual Charity Walk 2023, which is organized annually by the Mission For Migrant Workers (MFMW) to increase public awareness of the need to protect migrant domestic workers’ rights and value their contributions. During this activity, I interacted with migrant workers from different countries, mostly from the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, who shared their stories of working abroad, their dreams, their relationships with the families they left behind, the challenges they faced, etc. Sometimes they feel hopeless when employers do not treat them properly. They feel like no one can support them, and they tend to hold back these unpleasant feelings when catching up with their families. This was the first time I’d had any interaction with such a large group of migrant domestic workers. It was a great experience to engage with them and learn more about their stories and experiences across the region. It was sad to hear what they have encountered, yet now I feel like I am standing in solidarity with them. 

Despite the challenges, women still need (or choose) to perform care work or to migrate due to various contextual circumstances. Therefore, the above are interlinked, such that the economy is not only about individuals, but also families, societies, countries, regions and the globe. Every stakeholder should engage in promoting decent work for care workers and ultimately invest in the care economy by addressing the 5Rs: recognize, reduce, redistribute, reward and represent. Ideally, these principles should be integrated into policies, developed into strategies and, most importantly, be supported and protected across the region.  

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is an agenda for women’s empowerment, global policies and frameworks on gender equality that sets strategic objectives and actions for governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector. It was adopted unanimously by 189 countries in 1995. Fast-approaching, Beijing +30 next year will be a chance to review and appraise its implementation to identify current challenges and formulate better strategies and policies for its achievement.    

Working at UN Women and participating in the Asia-Pacific CSW68 Regional Consultation has been a valuable opportunity for me to link the theory and knowledge I learned in university to the real world of how different stakeholders put this into practice. It is great to see progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment; still, the road to achieving gender equality and developing a care economy is long and winding. This requires regional efforts, but I believe we’ll achieve success! 

Lau Yuen Tung Chloe, 23

Lau Yuen Tung Chloe, 23is a university student major in Asian Studies from Hong Kong SAR and currently with UN Women ROAP as an UNV in Communications and External Relations based in Bangkok. She is interested in arts, cultures, and heritage, especially those of Asia. She also enjoys having ‘me-time’, listening to music, watching non-mainstream movies, travelling around and exploring the world in her own ways.  

Instagram @chlytung_